Saturday , Feb , 17 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Huskies invade Steel City seeking upset of Pitt

Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) – The Big East-leading Pittsburgh Panthers
take a break from conference play this weekend, as they welcome the
Washington Huskies to the Petersen Events Center.

The seventh-ranked Panthers enter this contest on a rare down note, as they
had a five-game win streak halted against Louisville this past Monday, 66-53.
The loss was just the fourth on the season overall and the second in league
play, where Pittsburgh sits atop the Big East standings at 10-2.

The Huskies are no stranger to setbacks, as they have struggled big time
in the Pac-10 this year at just 6-8. The team also enters this contest
following a loss, as the Huskies dropped a 65-61 decision to in-state rival
Washington State on Wednesday.

This is just the third all-time meeting between these two teams on the
hardwood, but the first since those two games in 1950. Washington won the
previous two matchups that year.

The Huskies have had their problems in 2006-07, but the numbers suggest a team
with a great deal of offensive talent. Washington still represents one of the
nation’s better offensive squads, with the team shooting .470 from the floor
and averaging nearly 80 points per game (78.8). Four of the team’s five
starters are averaging double figures, starting with freshman center Spencer
Hawes. The seven-foot youngster is converting just over 55 percent of his
shots this season, while averaging 15.1 points per game. He is also tops in
terms of blocks (40) and ranks second in rebounding (5.8 rpg). Jon Brockman is
another banger down low, adding 14,1 points and a team-high 9.7 rebounds per
outing. Quincy Pondexter completes a potent frontcourt with 11.0 ppg. Justin
Dentmon (10.9 ppg) and Ryan Appleby (9.6 ppg) provide perimeter balance.
Dentmon is the team’s primary distributor (97 assists), while Appleby is the
resident sniper (.427 from three-point range, 61-of-143). Hawes and Brockman
were outstanding against Washington State this week, but the two big guys got
little support in the loss to the Cougars. Hawes finished with 22 points and
five rebounds, while Brockman recorded a huge double-double of 15 points and
14 boards.

The Panthers have offensive firepower as well, but rely more on defensive
tenacity to win games. The team is holding opponents to a mere .401 shooting
this year, resulting in just 61.1 ppg. At the other end of the court, the
Panthers are shooting an efficient .489 from the floor and are netting 72.4
ppg. All-American candidate Aaron Gray leads the way with his strong play in
the middle. The near seven-footer is converting almost 60 percent of the time
(.588) and is averaging a double-double with team-highs of 14.8 points and
10.0 rebounds per game. Mike Cook gives the team another frontcourt option
with 10.2 ppg, thanks to .503 shooting, while Antonio Graves leads the way
from the perimeter (10.0 ppg). He is joined out there by Levance Fields (9.5
ppg) and Ronald Ramon (8.7 ppg). The Panthers fell behind early and then got
buried late in the second half, trailing by as much as 20 points, before
getting handed a 13-point loss, the largest in Petersen Events Center history.
Still, Gray was solid in the setback, recording his 30th career double-double
with 12 points and 10 rebounds against Louisville. Fields chipped in with 11
points, but Pittsburgh turned the ball over 19 times and shot just .354 from
the floor, including a miserable .143 from behind the arc (3-of-21).